If you’re a Chinese student looking to obtain a student travel visa to study at a U.S. college, the travel visa requirements may appear to be difficult and complicated. But as long as you take care in making sure that every requirement is met and every step is performed fully, you should come through the process without difficulty.
Visa: a brief definition
A student travel visa is meant to grant permission for an individual to enter a country in order to pursue an education; a student visa is not meant to let that student remain in the country permanently.
Student visas for the U.S.A. primarily consist of F-class and M-class visas. F-class visas are used for the majority of American universities, as F-class visas are meant for students pursuing an academic education in the U.S.A.
Both types of student visa only continue to apply for as long as the holder of those visas is still considered a student. Once the holder ceases to have student status, then after a certain amount of time between 30 and 60 days depending upon the exact nature of the visa, he or she will be expected to leave the U.S.A.
Steps for obtaining a student travel visa to attend a U.S. college
The first and most obvious step for any Chinese student to obtain a student visa is to be accepted by a U.S. college. This means that you should plan on applying to American universities as early as possible, in the hopes of hearing back from them about acceptance sooner rather than later. As soon as you have been accepted by a U.S. university, you can begin to take the other steps necessary to fulfill student travel visa requirements.
1. Make sure to get either the I-20 or I-20M form from your American university; this form is an important part of satisfying student travel visa requirements for travel to the USA.
2. Complete SEVIS Form I-901 in order to pay the I-901 fee, and keep the receipt.
3. Pay the application fees for the visa. Keep all copies of the receipt for later presentment.
4. Make an appointment for a visa interview by getting a pre-paid PIN card from China CITIC Bank or online from the Visa Information Call Center website. Use the pre-paid PIN card or the PIN number to call the Visa Information Call Center and make an appointment, while also asking any questions about the process and student travel visa requirements that you might have.
5. Obtain an appropriate photo, which, in general, must be 51mm x 51mm, in color, with a white background. It must be a full frontal photo, and it must be less than 6 months old.
6. Fill out the DS-160 application online, with as much thoroughness as possible. Print out the confirmation page, including the barcode, with a laser printer.
7. Prepare the following documents, which are necessary for student travel visa requirements for the US:
- The DS-160 confirmation form
- A passport which must be valid for at least six months past the point at which the intended stay in the U.S.A. will end
- The photograph from above, taped to the front cover of the passport
- The application fee receipt, attached to the bottom of the DS-160 confirmation page with glue or tape
- All prior passports which were used to obtain a U.S. visa
- The completed SEVIS form, which is the aforementioned I-20A-B or I-20M-N form.
- An electronic receipt or I-797 receipt indicating payment for the SEVIS fee
- Some form of documented proof of ties or commitments to China which validate your intent not to stay in the United States permanently and to return to China at the end of your time as a student at a university in the U.S.A.
- Some form of documented proof that would demonstrate that you can support yourself entirely and pay all tuition costs without a full-time job while attending colleges in the U.S.A.
- A full description of your academic and research plans, including contact information for your advising professor and the head of your academic department
- A resume or CV, with full information about all the publications and work that you might have undertaken in the past
- If you are a student returning to a U.S.A. college for continued education, then you should have your transcripts for your time at school so far
- If you are a graduate student, you should have a biography of your advising professor along with his or her resume, CV, or webpage if possible
8. Attend your interview appointment with all of the above documentation.
For the student travel visa interview appointment
In the interview appointment, you will have to talk about your situation, including specifics like why you plan on attending a U.S.A. college, and which college you are planning to attend. None of these questions should be overly difficult if you fulfilled all other student travel visa requirements, but you might still be a bit nervous. Just try to relax, and be as honest and thorough as possible in answering the questions.
Make sure to get to the U.S. Embassy where you will have your interview at least 30 minutes before the time of the interview, and be prepared for the security measures that you are likely to find there. Don’t bring electronic devices, backpacks, or bags of any kind, and only bring the documentation mentioned above. Also be prepared for some potential long waits during the course of the interview and processing.
With any luck, assuming you've fulfilled all of the student travel visa requirements, your visa will be approved, and you should receive it back within five days through the mail. Another option would be to pick it up from the China Post Office near the embassy where you had your interview. Wait times to get your passport and visa can vary, depending upon where you submitted, but can range close to 30 days. This is why it is important to submit for a student visa very soon after hearing back from American universities.